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Certification of forests as organic collection areas

Organic certification can demonstrate the origin and purity of a raw material or a natural product. Natural products are organic when they are collected from organically certified collection areas. The organic collection area is approved as organically certified, that is, it is inspected and included in organic control. Organic collection areas are often natural areas such as forests and swamps, but they can also be fields, verges, and natural pastures. 

The prerequisite for organic certification is that no prohibited measures have been taken in the area during the previous three years. In forestry, these are usually forest fertilization or the use of pesticides, such as the use of urea to control root rot. Organic certification of forests does not affect forest management. Forest owners can take measures that are prohibited in organic production, but these measures must be reported to the organic control during the annual inspection, in which case the areas are removed from the organic collection area for three years. For some of the prohibited measures, there is an allowable equivalent in organic production, such as certain fertilizers and Phlebia gigantea, a biocontrol agent used to control root rot. In addition, the collection of natural products must not impair the stability of the area's natural habitats or the stability of the species in the collection area. Instructions on organic collection are issued by the Finnish Food Authority and supervised by the ELY Centres.  

Organic natural products are natural products that are collected from the forest and organically certified. 

What is organic collection?

Organic collection is the collection of wild plants and their parts from areas included in and approved for organic control. There are two types of non-wood forest products:  

  • Products collected at everyman’s right: berries, mushrooms, and herbaceous plants (e.g. nettle and rosebay willowherb).  
  • Products collected with the permission of the landowner: e.g. juice, spruce shoots, resin, chaga mushrooms, birch leaves, juniper berry, lichen.  

All organic production is monitored, including products collected from the forest. Organic control ensures that the products meet the requirements set for organic products, such as that no prohibited measures have been used in the collection area. 

Why should a forest be included in an organic collection area?

Natural forest products can be utilized alongside wood production and generate additional income. Organic certification brings added value to the collected natural products and this means more opportunities for forestry. Organic products have a growing demand on both the Finnish and world markets. So that there is enough organic raw material on the market, more organic collection areas are needed. Finland already has the largest organic collection area in the world, almost 4.6 million hectares, but it would be possible to quadruple the area, as almost all forestry lands in Finland are suitable for organic production. 

Glossary of terms

Organic collection area: a natural area approved for the organic control and meeting the requirements for organic production.  

Organic non-wood product: a naturally growing wild plant or its part collected from an organic collection area. No hunting of wild animals or fishing of wild fish.  

Organic production: the collection of wild plants and their parts from areas included in and approved for organic control.  

Coordinator: a legal person who, on behalf of one or more landowners, performs the obligations related to joining organic control on behalf of a natural or a legal person. 

How can a forest be included in an organic collection area?

In Finland, forest owners can include their forests in organic collection areas in two ways, which are:  

  • coordination model, and 
  • basic model.  

If the forest owner only acts in the role of a picker and / or wants to give his or her forest for organic collection, then it is worthwhile to choose a coordination model. 

If the forest owner intends to sell natural products directly as organic, then it is worth including the forest in an organic collection area with a basic model. 

Measures prohibited in organic production

Not all fertilizers or pesticides can be used in organic collection areas. For example, urea, treatment of seedlings with pine weevil pesticides, as well as chemical fertilizers, weed control and sprout control agents are prohibited.  

Forest owners may choose to use prohibited fertilizers or pesticides, but then they must remember to notify either the coordinator or the ELY centre. This way, the forest compartments are taken out of the organic collection area.  

If forest owners want to use permitted fertilizers or pesticides in organic production, for example in stump treatment, they can use Phlebia gigantea as a bioagent. Fertilizers suitable for organic production include wood ash (not granulated), Yara Bortrack and Ecolan Silva BOREA boron fertilizer.  

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